Book Rec – A Year with Thomas Merton…

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A couple of years ago, I bought this Kindle book through a discount posting, and I read it daily for one year. It was eye-opening in many ways. The first was my introduction to Thomas Merton and his way of thinking and his life as a mystic. Another thing that struck me as mystifying was how much Merton’s words, written from 1952 to 1968 made perfect sense in today’s world with the upheaval here in the states with the 2016 election and subsequent events. It was hard for me to reconcile the timelessness of his words that fit so well in our modern world and with his death in 1968. I couldn’t believe that this wasn’t written that year or the year before I read it.

Each month’s journal entries begin with Merton’s pen and ink drawing or black & white photograph. Each day is an easy to read, thought-provoking way to begin your day. The entries have been chosen and edited by Jonathan Montaldo. As much as I wanted to read ahead, I disciplined myself and stuck to the meditation per day schedule that the book is written in.

Celebrate the anniversary of Merton’s birth (108 years) by beginning this yearly devotional today.

A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals

Tea for Tuesday – Relax…

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There is nothing better than sitting quietly with a good journal and fancy pen trying out a new type of tea. This was a tea service that I gave to myself one day, and it was everything. The tea was unique; the food was exquisite, and the journaling was productive.

Have yourself a unique, exquisite, productive day.

(c)2023
(c)2023

Roe v. Wade Today

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Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the right to an abortion. More specifically, and importantly, they found the right to an abortion under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that we all have a fundamental “right to privacy”. Any laws that prohibited an abortion would be subject to strict scrutiny by the Courts.

Much has been made of the plaintiff, Roe expressing her regrets for her abortion. She had gone back and forth on this issue, and honestly I feel that she was taken advantage of by both sides. She was paid by the right to recant her wish for an abortion, and stated in the 2020 documentary, AKA Jane Roe that she hadn’t ever supported the antiabortion movement.

Roe’s holding was reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in 1992 while at the same time overruling the trimester framework established in the Roe decision and moved from “strict scrutiny” to “undue burden”.

In 2022, the Supreme Court overruled Roe with their ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that the right to an abortion was not “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history or tradition.”

This is false, and it is simply Justice Alito (and his cohorts) grasping at straws and making law whole cloth from their beliefs which violate the Constitution as well as basic human rights of women to their own bodily autonomy. In the ruling, they also included questioning rights now recognized as to contraception, interracial marriage, and marriage equality (same-sex marriage). Some on the right are suggesting we take another look at those rights already enshrined in law (and common sense, to be quite honest).

Abortions have been happening for as long as there’s been pregnancy. The real value of legal abortion is safety. When abortions are illegal, women are less safe. In addition, many, if not all of the proponents of eliminating legal abortion have no idea how pregnancy and birth works. They throw out terms that they don’t understand, pass laws, and criminalize medical care for women under the guise of stopping abortion.

Since Dobbs, women have died from miscarriages that weren’t treated; ectopic pregnancies that were left to fester. Women have lost the ability to have more children because of doctors waiting for the last minute to help women, afraid that anything they do to save the woman will create a liability for themselves and their facilities.

The right set up pregnancy centers who lie to women and scare them and do not give them all of their options as far as family planning and abortion. If their way is the right way, why do they need to lie?

This is horrifying, and it needs to end.

Women need to be able to make informed decisions on their family planning, their pregnancies, their terminating or continuing of pregnancies. My daughter has less rights than her grandmother had.

In addition to our activism and raising our voices, we need to contact our Congresspeople and especially Leader Jeffries, and have them bring a bill to the floor and pass it to make the Supreme Court more modern. The last time the Supreme Court was changed with respect to number of justices was with the Judiciary Act of 1869 during the Grant Administration. We currently have nine justices and thirteen circuit courts. We should have 13 justices to correspond to the circuits. For those saying that this is packing the Court, it is unpacking the Court that Mitch McConnell gave us by blocking President Obama’s duly chosen nominee in 2019 and then reversing his “logic” and pushing through Amy Coney Barrett while we were in the middle of an election. Literally while voting was happening.

We can’t stop speaking out.

The only way we can solve this disparity and reproductive health crisis is by reinstating Roe, expanding it, and codifying it into law.

The Year of the Rabbit

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Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year. As you may know, the Asian new year is based on the lunisolar calendar and celebrates the spring season. In reading up on it, it sounds a bit like our American Thanksgiving where you gather with family and friends and reflect with gratitude on our lives. In the Asian countries it marks the end of the winter season. The evening before is commemorated with a Lantern Festival and there are many cultural rituals and customs to be done to bring in a happy and healthy new year. I will suggest that you google some of them. I don’t want to give out the wrong information on a culture that I do not belong to. I can tell you, however how we, as non-Asian Americans celebrate the Chinese New Year in our house.

One fun feature of googlingChinese New Year” or “Year of the Rabbit” is there is an animated fireworks display across your screen with an accompanying bunny. It is very colorful and fun. Mesmerizing to watch.

I’ve done it three times now.

Typically, the New Year begins between January 21 and February 20 on the new moon. This year it starts today. It was first mentioned during the Han Dynasty which flourished between 202 BCE and 220 CE. It was written that the celebration included worshipping the ancestors and toasting their parents and grandparents.

We don’t go overboard in our house; we’re not of Asian descent, but we love to enjoy multicultural holidays and usually (if not always) celebrate with food. We’ll get take-out from our favorite Chinese restaurant. I think the last time we had take-out was for Christmas Eve which is our yearly tradition. One year, we took the kids to the local Chinese buffet – it was my daughter’s first new year – she had been born that year on the 5th of January, so she was a tiny baby, but cutely dressed in red with a bow on her head. They gave the kids red envelopes for luck and there was a dragon dance through the restaurant around the tables along with a train that traveled just below the ceiling. It really was a special time for the kids. They loved it.

At home recently, we’ve been enjoying barbeque chicken tenders in Hoisin sauce. It’s my version with Chinese spices and sauce. It’s funny because my daughter is quite picky and won’t really eat a lot of sauces or dressings, but she loves the hoisin sauce as well as the sesame chicken she gets from the restaurant. I also do a great fried rice, and now that I’m thinking of it, maybe I’ll whip that up some time this week. I’ll need sesame oil and I already have the eggs; those are probably the biggest expense.

The bunny picture that I’ve shared above is one that we’ve seen in our backyard. I think because we don’t have dogs, the rabbits tend to congregate in our yard. We even had babies in a burrow one spring. This one is probably the biggest rabbit we’ve seen locally.

Two customs that everyone can do is clean your house to sweep out the ill and welcome the good fortune. This is similar to our Jewish custom at Passover of cleaning and getting rid of any bread and crumbs to make ready for the unleavened matzo. Decorations in red are also fun to hang in windows and on doors.

For anyone wondering, my zodiac sign is the Horse.

Tea for Tuesday

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This advice from VeryBritishProblems may sound a bit peevish at first, but for tea, the microwave is very uneven. You’re likely to find the first sip warm, and then drink it faster only to discover the middle scalding. Best to boil new water and brew another tea bag for evenness. One thing I learned from Douglas Adams’s advice on the perfect cup of tea is to boil the water, fill your mug, and pour it out. Then refill the mug with the boiled water and a tea bag. Let it steep. This will warm the cup and keep your tea warmer longer. I’ve tried this method and it really is perfect.

We also invested in an electric kettle. It is very fast and does a great job, and by invest, we paid about $25, so it easily pays for itself if you start brewing your tea at home.

Proper British Tea. (c)2023

Mental Health Monday – January 2023

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I spent today with my family, and when I got home realized that this post wasn’t ready. I was going to put it off until mid-week when things would be seemingly calmer, but I thought about that for a minute, and realized that our mental health can’t be put off.

We need to take the time needed and focus on our mental health when we need to. It will never fit into a schedule. Things come up with mental health that we need to cope with just like things come up everyday in our lives like an overflowing sink or a backed-up toilet. Some things just need to be taken care of right away.

One thing that I have been struggling with is my prayer life. My faith is strong, but I’m having difficulty praying, so I’m looking at new techniques. If it doesn’t improve, I may resort to a finite-timed checklist. And for me, not being prayerful affects my mental health. I am hoping to attend mass tomorrow before I begin the rest of my day.


Before I give you my quick list, please…. if you are in distress or having an emergency, contact a mental health professional or call 9-1-1.
The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988 and they are there to help.


Here are five simple suggestions for coping with mental health and the anxieties that accompany it:

  • Focus on something neutral, something ordinary. The breeze blowing the leaves outside. The clouds drifting by.
  • Take some quiet time and listen to music. Instrumental music is often good for this because there are no words to distract you, but if you like loud, blaring music, play that and sing along.
  • Read a book.
  • Write in a journal. You can write what you’re feeling, what you’re grateful for, what your plans are when you’re feeling better.
  • Watch a movie you’ve seen before. That way you don’t have to give it your full attention, but you’ll feel as though you’re doing something if that’s what you need.

Here’s another helpful action you can take.

National Hot Tea Day

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My breakfast nook! My special place for tea preparation. (c)2022-2023

I finally broke down and created this special area for our breakfast needs. My husband works from home and makes himself coffee every morning. For myself, I drink tea, especially during the cold months, and I wanted a space that spoke to me and that I could find everything I needed for my cup of tea since tea is more than a drink – it is life-giving and life-sustaining. There is so much more to tea than drinking leaves steeped in hot water.

One of my favorite ways to make tea is the way Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy described in 1999. It really works well. It’s the using a hot cup that really does the trick. You can read his brilliant way to brew tea by clicking here.

Here is George Orwell’s take on it as well: A Nice Cup of Tea

What I’ve discovered about brewing tea is that the simple ways are the best ways.

  1. If you’re making tea one cup at a time, the cup should be hot.
  2. The water should be boiling.
  3. The tea bag should not be left in the cup once it has been steeped.
  4. And under no circumstances should the tea bag be squeezed.
  5. Sugar, honey, agave, your sweetener is your choice, but I prefer the tried and true sugar.

Enjoy.

Check out my instagram later today for the cup of tea I had this morning with my breakfast bagel!

Help for a Hero

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On January 6th, I watched in horror at what was enfolding. I stared at the television. I was transfixed, and it was eerily like 9/11. I was numb, my eyes welled with unshed tears, I was frightened. I grew up in a family that cherished the right to vote, the right to know how government works, to stand for the flag and the Pledge, not just in school but wherever it was recited. I was part of a Model Congress at my school, and my favorite classes were civics and history. I studied political science for two years in college.

January 6th was terrifying, and I wasn’t even there to witness it first-hand.

I do remember on that day hearing the account of a police officer who was tased with his taser, whose gun was taken and was threatened with it, who begged for his life so he could go home to his daughters. He had a heart attack after being tased. He has a traumatic brain injury. I didn’t learn that day that the officer’s name was Michael Fanone. He was an undercover officer for the DC Metropolitan Police, and he self-deployed to the Capitol to help his fellow officers and Capitol Police.

In the two years that have followed, I have followed Officer Fanone as well as others (: Harry Dunn, Aquilino Gonell, and Danny Hodges) as they gave their first-hand accounts, testified in Congressional hearings, and witnessed the January 6th Select Committee try to get to the bottom of the responsible parties who organized and participated in the Insurrection.

During his first appearance before Congress, he spoke about the Congress people who were involved, who were denying the election up to and including that day of his testimony. He slammed his hand on the table and loudly exclaimed, “Disgraceful!” He is one hundred percent correct: those Republicans, and let’s not pretend it’s any other party, created the false narrative about a stolen election, and created the atmosphere that was one of the main catalysts for the Insurrection, and those Congress people still maintaining their positions as Congressional officals – all of it is disgraceful. I hear that word and his voice often throughout the last several months.

When Officer Fanone returned to duty, he was shunned by his fellow officers, people who he had previously considered friends. His family, including his mother and his children were threatened with death. He continues to receive these threats daily. He is stalked and harassed. He was left violent and profane phone messages.

In addition to his physical injuries and continued harassment, he has ongoing, severe PTSD.

His career as an undercover officer was finished as everyone knew his face, and he couldn’t continue to work with the ongoing hostility in his workplace. He was not able to get his pension (or benefits) that he worked twenty years towards.

This is bullshit.

This is profane.

This is wrong.

A fund has been set up to help him, to thank him for his sacrifice in protecting our elected officials and our democracy.

You can donate here: Michael Fanone: Help Support this Jan. 6th Hero

His book, Hold the Line can be found here.

Tea for Tuesday – National Tea Month

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There is never a wrong day to drink tea. I had two cups of hot tea myself on Sunday and one hot vanilla chai latte yesterday. January is National Tea Month, although I’ve seen several references to hot tea month. I’m not sure which is accurate, so pick your favorites and have a cuppa.

This coming Thursday is National Hot Tea Day, and that is when I will share my favorite missive on the proper brewing of hot tea from Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite for the nectar of the gods, enjoy some of my favorite tea-related photos below:

Continue reading

Inspire.

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I’m looking for a new title for this monthly series. They will continue to include quotations, photos/art, and reflections. Let me know any of your title ideas in the comments. I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

A few quotations that struck me for the new year (in no particular order):

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Douglas Adams

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.

Ranier Maria Rilke

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.

Melody Beattie

You are your choices.

Seneca

Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.

Alan Cohen

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.

Mary Pickford

Every moment is a fresh beginning.

TS Eliot

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.

Meister Eckhart